Sam has dark, slightly wavy hair, a bulbous nose, and freckles. He typically wears a bow tie.
Before he became a police officer, Sam claimed to have worked in a delicatessen, been a dentist, and studied law.
Upon entering law enforcement, Catchem worked for a number of different police agencies. Just prior to being hired by Chief Patton, Sam had been a "special investigator" for the Boston Police. Before that, he had been a police officer in a department on the West Coast, a C.I.D. Agent in the U.S. Army where he qualified as a fingerprint expert, and an officer in Brooklyn, NY. He also said that he had once been a member of the Chicago Police (see Notes below).
His first case was to gather information about Big Frost's remaining gang members with the help of an old acquaintance from Boston- Sleet. Sleet's mother was on trial for having sent secret messages to Big Frost in prison. Sam had enough evidence against her to send her to jail for twenty years. Sleet and her mother turned on Sam, chloroforming him and dumping his body over an overpass leaving him for dead. Tracy's adoptive son Junior and his Crimestoppers Club managed to find Sam, and they notified Tracy and Chief Patton. Sleet was eventually caught and Sam recovered just in time to arrest her.
Sam remained a loyal partner to Tracy through good times and bad, and he played a significant role in The Apparatus (nationwide Crime Syndicate) investigation when dying mobster Big Boy put out a million dollar Open Contract on Tracy.
After Pat Patton was shot, Sam took over temporarily as Chief, but was replaced by Climer.
In 1987 Sam was framed for a bank robbery by an unknown criminal dubbed "The Man of a Million Faces" who impersonated Sam, as well as Ronald Reagan, Albert Einstien, David Letterman, Diet Smith, and even Dick Tracy. The criminal was eventually discovered to be Putty Puss, who was able to change his face to resemble anyone he wanted. Sam was cleared of the charges and resumed his role as Tracy's partner.
In 2006, during the incident with Dr. Figment Froid's mind reading device, Tracy was surprised to learn that he and Sam belong to different political parties.
Sam became the object of affection of the FBI Agent Fritz Ann Dietrich, who sometimes works with the Major Crimes Unit. Sam has not encouraged the agent's affections and remains faithful to his wife. This has not stopped Fritz Ann from aggressively flirting with Sam, going so far as to grab him and kiss him. Fritz Ann was injured during the raid on Mr. Bribery's headquarters, and she and Sam came to an understanding that there would be no romantic involvement between them.
In 2016, Sam revealed that his wife was suffering from cancer. After a few weeks of treatment, though, Sam and Marge learned that the cancer had gone into remission.
Appearances in Other Media
Sam appeared in the original Dick Tracy stories produced by Dell Comics in 1949. He first appeared in issue #20. In the comics, Sam was apparently a bachelor living in an apartment in the City. He expressed an interest in some of the women he encountered while investigating cases. Presumably, these comic books were written before it was established in the strip that Sam was married (and had been for some time).
Live-Action TV Series
1960s Animated Series
Sam's face was never seen in the 1960s Dick Tracy cartoon show, though his silhouette was frequently observed driving the squad car. Tracy addressed him by name frequently. He speaks one line in the episode "Stamp Scamp"- "Right, Tracy."
In the unaired live-action pilot, Sam was played by Monroe Arnold. His appearance and portrayal resembled those of Archie's TV Funnies.
Archie's TV Funnies
Sam Catchem was a character in the "Dick Tracy" segments of the 1971 animated television series Archie's TV Funnies, produced by Filmation Associates. Sam's appearance closely resembled his depiction in the comic strip. He was portrayed as Dick Tracy's regular partner, but slightly more dim-witted and accident prone than in the comic strip.
Sam was a supporting character in the 1990 feature film Dick Tracy. He was played by actor Seymour Cassel.
Sam was shown as being one of Tracy's partners, along with Pat Patton, under the command of Chief Brandon. He was well-meaning but not especially relevant to the plot, though he did participate in the new Year's Eve shootout at Club Ritz.
In the scene where The Kid is awarded a a special certificate of commendation, he is told it is only temporary unless he chooses a proper name for himself. Sam says he never had that problem as like most people, his parents named him at birth. When the Kid asks if Sam were in his situation and had to name himself what it would be, to which Sam replies "Sam".
Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive
(Warning: This Section Contains Spoilers) Sam Catchem was a character in the 4-issue miniseries Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive published by IDW. A friend of Dick Tracy, Sam retired from police work when he found himself unable to deal with the corruption and politics. He then became a journalist. It was also implied that Sam was a heavy drinker.
Sam appeared to aid Tracy while Tracy was a fugitive, but he later betrayed his friend by revealing his location. This was eventually revealed to be part of a ruse designed to throw the police off Tracy's trail. Sam later joined Tracy's team on the police force.
- When he was introduced in the strip, Sam stated that he had previously worked for the Chicago police department. This would indicate that by being hired as Tracy's new partner that he was either returning to a department for which he had previously worked, or that the City is not Chicago (notwithstanding the many clues which indicate that it is).
- Sam is best known for his loyalty, intelligence, compassion, surprised exclamations of "Oy yi!", and the sandwiches made with his wife's homemade rye bread which he keeps in his pockets.
- In his debut storyline, Sam claimed to have joined the police 25 years ago. The story took place in in late 1948 and into 1949, which would mean Sam became a policeman in approximately 1924, 7 years before the comic strip began.
- Sam is the one who initiated the collection and preservation of Tracy's hats that had been damaged in the line of duty, though several hats are included in this exhibit from before Sam joined Tracy's department.
- Sam is openly and proudly Jewish, and often invites the Tracys and their extended family to join his in holiday celebrations. He implied that he had relatives who died in the Holocaust.
- Sam stated that his father's family had come to America from Germany, while his mother's parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants. He also stated that his parents were not wealthy.
- Sam's father had owned a small tailor shop in Boston, which Sam's brother eventually took over. It is not known if Sam's father is deceased, or if he has any additional siblings.
- Sam identified his favorite comic strip as "Derby Dugan", the fictional comic strip featured in a series of novels by author Tom De Haven.
- Sam has also been shown to enjoy the works of author Terry Pratchett, enjoying his escapist fantasy.
- Sam was the only police officer character besides Dick Tracy to be made into an action figure by Playmates Toys for the movie tie-in toy line. This was also the case for the 2002 mini-figure line produced by Mezco Toys, where Sam came in a 2-pack with Flattop Jones Sr.
- In 2011, during the strip's 80th Anniversary storyline, Sam told Lizz about how Dick Tracy originally came to be a plainclothes officer. The fact that Sam was not actually present at the time may account for the various discrepancies between his story and how the events were originally presented.
- Sam is a smoker, and is often depicted with a cigarette in his mouth. This was not uncommon at the time the character was introduced, but with changing attitudes towards smoking and health it is surprising to some readers to see the habit displayed on a modern newspaper comics page.
- In Jim Doherty's prose story, "Murder Is My Hobby," which appeared in the PLAINCLOTHES website, it is stated that the West Coast department Sam worked for was the Orange County Sheriff's Office, where he had been the Assistant Sheriff for Investigations, and that, in Brooklyn, NY, he had been a DA's investigator. This has been neither confirmed nor contradicted in canon.
- Sam was mentioned in the Nintendo Entertainment System game Dick Tracy, based on the 1990 film. After completing the second mission, Tracy remarks that Lips Manlis has been arrested and will be unavailable for some time, causing Big Boy Caprice to retort "I think one of your friends will be soon unavailable, forever!" The third mission then begins by saying Sam Catchem received a mail bomb, but is unspecified if he was wounded by this or successfully deduced it was an attempt on his life and reported it to his superiors.